Samson Agonistes "Lords Are Lordliest In Their Wine"
by John Milton

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"Lords Are Lordliest In Their Wine"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The play opens with the last phase of the life of Samson, the Old Testament hero. The Philistines have blinded him and hold him prisoner in Gaza. The play, structured as a Greek tragedy, depicts the restoration of the fallen Samson to the grace of God. Samson has already been tested by God and failed the test. Having been punished and having repented his sin, he now undergoes trials of his will and integrity to prove that he is worthy to be tested a second time. Surmounting these trials, he is summoned to entertain the Philistine nobles at the feast of the pagan god Dagon. He refuses to follow the summoning officer. While the officer is gone, Samson confides to the chorus that his strength is returning and he will never be forced to perform at the feast of Dagon, although he could go of his own free will. Within him there are strange stirrings, and in recognition of God's Providence he decides to attend the feast. He assures the Chorus that "This day will be remarkable in my life/ By some great act or of my days the last." When the officer returns to demand his attendance, he goes with him quietly. As he leaves, Samson, in his last speech, tells the Chorus:

Brethren, farewell, your company along
I will not wish, lest it perhaps offend them
To see me girt with friends; and how the sight
Of me as of a common Enemy,
So dreaded once, may now exasperate them
I know not. Lords are Lordliest in their wine;
And the well-feasted Priest then soonest fir'd
With zeal, if aught Religion seem concern'd:
No less the people on their Holy-days
Impetuous, insolent, unquenchable;
Happen what may, of me expect to hear
Nothing dishonorable, impure, unworthy
Our God, our Law, my Nation, or my self,
The last of me or no I cannot warrant.